International Women’s Day is a day for collective action to drive gender parity. March 8 2022 is a worldwide celebration of the achievements of women in the global political, economic and cultural arenas. As women, we all have a responsibility to play our part in promoting women’s rights and profiles.
I spent more than 20 years in the corporate rat race. Over that time, I watched workplaces become more ‘correct’ in how they treated women (less butt slapping and “sweetheart”) and how what was considered acceptable behaviour changed. But I definitely didn’t see a reduction in bias. One of my sisters - a corporate lawyer in one of the magic circle firms - once asked me to help her write and shoot a video to promote diversity in the workplace at her company. I started to write something addressing LBGTQ, race and gender equality and she informed me that no, in this case diversity meant just women. The idea that only a decade ago an enormous international company was just starting to even think about women is terrifying. Sadly, I am not sure that we have really come very far since then.
There has always been a double standard as to how our responses are treated. If we get angry we are hysterical (but men are passionate). If we are ambitious we are b****es (but men are driven). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Build Back Better initiative, that the UK government implemented last year, was literally jobs for the boys mostly in the road and rail building and engineering sectors. Not that women don’t do those things, but disproportionately, we work in the service sectors with softer skill sets. None of those elements, from business support to training, was even considered or included.
Now, in a post #MeToo world, there might be a more sensitive use of language but the inherent bias that women face across all elements of life is still fundamentally present. So what can we do to help #BreakTheBias? Each of us can celebrate and showcase achievements - in whichever fields we work - of our female colleagues and our organisations. As women, we tend to be more self-effacing, getting things done because that’s what we always do. But we can support each other through making as much noise as our male counterparts make.
Generating change in our workplace is something that can make an enormous difference to our work/life balance. Creating a culture that engenders support networks, consideration and progressive policies that fit more keenly with the challenges and responsibilities that women face is a great starting point. The responsibility for childcare and home management, generally falls to women, so how can we create practices and opportunities for women that means work can fit more seamlessly within our particular pressures? As a female employer or manager, ask yourself are you in a position to change your workplace culture to make it more helpful for female employees. Can you create better job opportunities?
International Women’s Day has several missions this year designed to push gender parity. These include Women in Technology, Women’s Health - including the menopause and how it is considered in the workplace, Women in the Creative Industries and Women in Sport. The latter being particularly close to my heart. This year there are several free online events that you can take part in plus local activities you can search for on the IWD website.
So, in 2022 and beyond, how will you be proactive in helping to #BreakTheBias? Even if it is just starting at home with ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ jobs. Can you be vocal in your workplace and champion female achievements? Every journey starts with one small step.
Find out how you can get involved at www.internationalwomensday.com